Saturday, May 12, 2007

10 Million Miles


For those of you who suffered through Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky earlier this season, you can now subject yourself to its sequel of sorts. 10 Million Miles, currently being presented by the Atlantic Theatre Company, is another intermissionless, ninety minute road trip to hell. The musical, which constructs a story of two drifters en route to New York (with many detours) around a handful of songs by country star Patty Griffin, often veers into deeper territories than its material can support, leaving the audience bewildered and confused.

The story is simple and rather thin: Duane (Matthew Morrison) and Molly (Irene Molloy), who once had a one night stand, agree to drive together from south Florida to New York. The former has an opportunity to run a gas station with a friend, while the latter--a recovering alcoholic--seeks a fresh start in a friendlier place. Along the way, secrets about their relationship are revealed, which makes it hard for the two to part company.

It would help the show greatly if these central characters were at all compelling, but in the hands of Morrison and Molloy, they never come alive. Both performers have pleasant (if small) voices, but they sing the material without even a soupcon of theatricality or emotion. They're rarely ever on the same page, which could explain why the distance between them feels as wide as the one in the show's title. Neither actor ever gives the audience a reason to care about them.

Another major problem is that Griffin's songs are not theatrical in any way. In the tradition of country music, each number is a stand-alone piece that tells its own intricate story. It's not uncommon for musical numbers in shows to comment on the plot rather than work to move it along--Bertolt Brecht's Epic Theatre movement revolutionized this concept--but Griffin's music does neither. Coupled with a weak book by playwright Keith Bunin (which surprised me, since his The Busy World is Hushed was one of the best plays I saw last season) and there is barely a leg for this show to stand on.

The heavy lifting falls to the show's supporting players, Skipp Sudduth and Mare Winningham. They play a myriad of roles, from Molly's "Jesus freak" aunt to Duane's mechanic buddy who was left mentally crippled by war. Both are excellent, but neither has enough stage time to make this long and often tedious journey worth the trip.

Tickets: Ticket Central
Atlantic Theatre Company at the Linda Gross Theater
336 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
Running time: 1 hour and 45 minutes without intermission
Through July 15

Cameron Kelsall is a guest reviewer for this blog. He also runs the blog Theatre Snobbery at its Finest , which can be read at tsnob.blogspot.com.

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